Let’s be honest. I tend to play it pretty safe when it comes to the flavors in my foods. In many ways, this can be considered a good and healthy thing. I like to let the natural flavors in foods take center stage with maybe just a little help from a spritz of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, or a sprinkle of Kosher salt. After all, that’s the kind of food I was raised with. There wasn’t a lot of sauce happening in the Greenfield household.
However, this blog and this life are about balance. It’s okay to get a little fancy with your food from time to time, which means there’s a heck of a lot of flavor out there that I’ve only begun to explore. This weekend, I took one small step toward advancing my culinary skills while simultaneously exposing my kitchen and my tastebuds to a slew of new spices in my very first attempt at cooking Indian food.
Before meeting Robert I may have had Indian food once in my life. Maybe. But his spice-loving palate and penchant for sauces means he’d be more than happy eating it for every meal. When we order takeout, it’s almost always Indian. I’ve come to adore the complexity of flavors and even enjoy the slow burn it leaves vs. the HOLY-CRAP-THAT’S-HOT sensation I always associated with spiciness.
Naturally, I’ve wanted to make an Indian dish for a while, but the thought completely freaked me out. I have absolutely no experience or point of reference for this kind of thing. I had no idea what was in a vindaloo or what made it different from, say, a curry. Where would I start? What would I make? Then, earlier this month I came across a recipe for chicken tikka masala in the slow cooker. If there’s one thing I know it’s that it’s really tough to screw up a slow cooker recipe–the appliance basically does the cooking for you. This I could handle. What’s more, most of the ingredients were those I’ve used before, had on hand, or knew I could find at WF. There was just one I was clueless about: Garam masala. Turns out, it’s a blend of spices that smells so incredible you’re going to want to stick your nose in it every time you walk through the kitchen and inhale deeply. If this sounds familiar, rest assured you’re not the only one who has done this before.
So back to the recipe. The verdict: A really solid attempt at homemade Indian food. (I can’t exactly vouch for the authenticity of it, but I’ll get back to you on that once I get a chance to visit India.) From my experience, however, it was everything Indian food should be: Bold, saucy, and even passed the slow-burn test (I’m pretty sure that pricking the jalapeno with a fork is what nailed it.) I served the chicken tikka masala over basmati rice and topped it with a generous sprinkle of cilantro. This dish definitely gave me the boost in confidence to experiment with even more flavors in the future. Where should we travel (in the kitchen) next?
Chicken Tikka Masala in the slow cooker
1 to 1.5 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 Tbsp ground coriander
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp Kosher salt
6 oz container Greek yogurt (I used non-fat)
Butter (just get out a whole stick and forget about your silly diet)
1 onion, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp garam masala
1 3-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
4 cups crushed tomatoes
3 Tbsp heavy cream (I used half-and-half because it was all I could find and it worked well)
Cilantro for garnish (optional)
Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Place in a large bowl and sprinkle with coriander, salt, and cumin. Add yogurt and stir to evenly coat. While that sits, heat 1 Tbsp butter in a skillet. Once melted, add chicken to pan just long enough to brown on each side (remember — the slow cooker will do the cooking). Add chicken in batches, if needed. Once browned, add chicken to slow cooker. Using a fork, poke holes in the jalapeno. Add to the slow cooker.
Melt 1-2 Tbsp of butter in skillet. Add onion and garlic and sautee until onion softens. Add garam masala and ginger. Mix so everything is evenly coated. Finally, add the crushed tomatoes, cook about 2 minutes more. Add sauce to the slow cooker. Set slow cooker to LOW and cook for 5 hours. Once finished, add cream/half and half and mix until the color lightens slightly. Replace lid and cook for 10 more minutes.
Serve over basmati rice and chopped cilantro.